Santiago Internship Stories: Q&A with SEAS Student Researching the Black-Scholes Model

August 17, 2020

Maddie Wilson, a junior at Columbia’s School of Engineering and Applied Science (SEAS), is one of the 30 students doing internships offered through the Santiago Center. Working at Universidad Católica’s Latin American Center on Economic and Social Policy (Clapes UC) with Columbia Business School professor and Clapes research associate, Arturo Cifuentes, she is researching the shortcomings of the Black-Scholes model - a mathematical model for financial market dynamics. Originally from St. Petersburg, Florida, Wilson is studying operations research at Columbia and is a member of the ski team.

Q: Tell us more about the model you’re working with.

A: Oh yes, the Black-Scholes Model. It is to price European options, so calls and puts. But we found that it is pretty inaccurate. That’s our project, to figure out which parts specifically are inaccurate.

Q: What about the professor you’re working with?

A: My work with Dr. Arturo Cifuentes wasn’t originally on the internship list. I signed up for his contemporary art one, but then he saw my resume and saw I was into financing options, so he offered me the internship I’m doing now.

Q: Is there a reason you applied to the contemporary art internship?

A: I just took Art Humanities (Masterpieces of Western Art), which at first I wasn’t too excited about because I’m an engineer. But it turns out I really liked it, especially the contemporary art portion. So, I saw that the internship posted was about contemporary art and finance, about pricing it. I thought, this kind of combines art and finance. But then it all worked out that I got one that’s more finance, in general.

Q: What is something that you’ve learned this summer?

A: Internship-related, I’d say definitely Black-Scholes Model. But also, how to really search for academic papers and journals and how to read them and understand them better, even though I don’t quite understand the math because I haven’t taken those classes yet. Non-internship related, five of my friends and I have stayed together in an apartment [in Florida]. And I learned that I can make the most of this pandemic, and hang out one last time with my friends even though we’re in different colleges and states.

Q: Any favorite quarantine activity?

A: Swimming, probably. I’m from Florida, so it’s hot. I was sad in New York because there’s no time to swim, but down here I have all the time in the world.

Q: Anything else you would like to add?

A: Now I need to actually visit Santiago one day, since I have someone I can hang out with and talk to, and who can show me around!